Looking to fortify their bullpen for the 2019 MLB season, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed veteran right-hander Joe Kelly to a three-year contract. Kelly was coming off a rough campaign but finished strong to help the Boston Red Sox win the World Series.
His time with the Dodgers hasn’t gotten off to an encouraging start, and the bullpen as a whole has endured its share of struggles. Though, manager Dave Roberts considers that part of the club’s process of determining how the pieces best fit.
It’s an evaluation Roberts and the Dodgers have stuck to over the last handful of seasons and it’s one he remains confident in allowing to play out. While the team appears headed in that direction, there’s also the reality of Craig Kimbrel still being a free agent.
The Dodgers potentially signing Kimbrel is something Kenley Jansen said he would fully support, via Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times:
“Why not?” Jansen said. “We want to win a championship, right?”
However, Jansen’s stance comes with the caveat that he would remain the Dodgers’ closer:
“That’s what I get paid for,” Jansen said. “I get paid for closing ballgames.”
“Why should I have to do anything different?” Jansen said. “That’s my question. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Jansen certainly has established himself as a formidable closer, and is only two seasons removed from being considered arguably the best in the game. However, he has regressed since that stellar 2017 campaign.
A curtailed Spring Training last year backfired as Jansen dealt with command and velocity issues, along with hamstring trouble. Jansen additionally had the prospect of a second heart surgery looming over him during the second half of the 2018 season.
He’s made a full recovery since last November’s operation and participated in a more regular Spring Training schedule. Jansen’s velocity nonetheless remains a tick down and he’s still experienced bouts with shaky command.
That’s led to Jansen’s fly ball/home run rate sitting at a career-worst 18.2%, one season after it spiked to 15.9%.
It’s unclear how much interest, if any, the Dodgers would have in signing Kimbrel. Any such deal presumably wouldn’t come until after the 2019 MLB Draft, as it would allow the Dodgers to avoid having to forfeit a second pick because Kimbrel rejected the qualifying offer from the Red Sox.
The Dodgers have previously pursued pairing Jansen with another closer, most notably nearly trading for Aroldis Chapman on the first day of the 2015 Winter Meetings. L.A. has since had reported interest in Zack Britton, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.